Think. Eat. Save.
Those words are not just a rallying cry, they also offer a succinct strategy for minimizing Thanksgiving food waste. Yet, why even worry about squandered food on a day dedicated to abundance? Well, there are almost as many motives to trim Turkey Day waste as there are reasons to be thankful.
Because appreciating our food is central to the holiday, we undermine the occasion when we take our food for granted. We are doing plenty of undermining, as America wastes more than 200 million pounds of turkey on Thanksgiving. By weight, that’s the equivalent of 400 Statues of Liberty.
Such waste in the face of America’s sizable but hidden hunger is callous. While celebrating abundance usually means having too much, throwing away 35 percent of our turkey ignores the spirit of the holiday and the 50 million Americans who don’t always get enough to eat.
Meanwhile, as you may have heard, food waste has a significant carbon footprint and turkey is no exception. Of the 20 most common U.S. proteins, the production and disposal of turkey generates the sixth largest per kilogram amount of C02. Overall, global food waste creates carbon emissions higher than those of any nation but China and the U.S.
Lest you need further motivation, here’s one more bit: Wasting food on Thanksgiving is expensive! America’s uneaten turkey represents a $280 million bite out of our collective pockets.
Given those motivating factors, here’s some practical Thanksgiving advice using our favorite three-pronged strategy:
Think. Plan! Consider how many guests you’ll have and whether guests are bringing food. Consider the one-pound-per-person guideline for a whole turkey and don’t overbuy. Also, factor in whether or not you enjoy having leftovers. Finally—this will be sacrilege for some of you—there’s no rule requiring you to buy a whole bird, or even serve turkey. There are many ways to be thankful.
Eat. Mindfully. Be Thankful. Consider the impact that turkey production has on our planet and don’t forget that your main course was once alive (and didn’t receive a Presidential pardon). Then, take what you’ll eat and eat what you take. Know that your eyes tend to be bigger than your stomach, and you can always have seconds. Finally—and this is vital—enjoy your meal!
Save. Your Leftovers. Refrigerate the turkey and other dishes within two hours of cooking to maximize its lifespan. Store leftovers in smaller, shallow containers because the quicker that food cools the longer it will last. Divide up leftovers amongst guests, because it’s courteous and—let’s be honest—you’re not going to use all of that food. Challenge yourself to use up your leftovers—both for your economic and environmental wellbeing. Plan ahead and get excited about a few quirky turkey recipes.
The majority of the above advice is applicable year round. Yet, it’s even more apt on Thanksgiving, when there’s more at stake, ethically and literally. With that in mind, let’s be thankful, not wasteful, this Thursday.
By Jonathan Bloom, Author of American Wasteland and creator of Wasted Food